Hockey Player Exposes Racial Slurs, Blackface in American Professional Hockey Clubs: Report

A former minor league hockey player unveiled details of racial slurs and an incidence of blackface that have led to one NHL coach's resignation and an equipment manager getting placed on administrative leave.

Akim Aliu gave details to the Wall Street Journal in a Wednesday report that has already put two in the penalty box.

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Aliu is a longtime hockey player who was born in Nigeria and made it into seven NHL games during his career. His name became more well-known after his November 25 tweet that said Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters, while Peters was coaching the Flames' minor league team in which Aliu played in 2009, used racial slurs toward him.

Peters offered a letter of apology to Flames general manager Brad Treliving, and Peters resigned four days later—the day after Thanksgiving.

Another story surfaced from 2011 in which Tony Deynzer, then the equipment manager for the Colorado Eagles, wore blackface at a team Halloween Party and allegedly made fun of Aliu. The Colorado Avalanche, which is the NHL franchise of the Eagles, placed Deynzer on administrative leave Wednesday.

Aliu gave a detailed account in the WSJ report, saying he was told to show up late for the party. And when Aliu arrived to the party and walked in, Deynzer "appeared from behind a corner ... in blackface, wearing an Afro-style wig and a jersey that had been custom-made with Aliu's number and nickname 'DREAMER' emblazoned on the back."

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"Guys just started laughing," Aliu said. "All I can do is tell my story."

Officials from the Eagles organization on Wednesday tweeted an apology to Aliu, asking for forgiveness in the process.

"As an organization, the discovery of this event deeply saddens us," the team said. "Although we had no prior knowledge, that doesn't excuse or diminish the fact that this has hurt a fellow human being. Rest assured, our organization holds no ego too big or stature so proud that we are above apologies for any wrongdoings. As a family-oriented organization, we wholeheartedly seek your forgiveness and sincerely apologize. We are truly very sorry, and we will also assure you that this behavior is not and never will be acceptable in our organization."

Akim Aliu
Akim Aliu #29 of the Calgary Flames skates against the Nashville Predators at the Bridgestone Arena on April 23, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Aliu met with commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly to talk about inclusion, diversity and providing a platform for whistleblowers.

"It was a tough week, but we had some great discussion," Aliu said. "They couldn't have been kinder or more receptive to the message that we're trying to bring."

Bettman said that message is to develop policies to create a safe work environment, and he said the league will aim to have a zero-tolerance stance for those who willingly fail to report such incidents.

"Our message is unequivocal," Bettman said. "We will not tolerate abusive behavior of any kind."

Hockey Player Exposes Racial Slurs, Blackface in American Professional Hockey Clubs: Report | Sports